Many of your favorite gals from RuPaul’s Drag Race have gone on to do some pretty awesome things, from headlining major drag conventions, to launching music careers. It’s always a treat to see the talented Drag Race contestants thrive and expand their brands to new heights. Based on the popularity of RuPaul’s brilliant show, many in America continue to embrace drag culture not only as camp but also as an acknowledgment that drag performers are genuinely talented entertainers who take their craft seriously.
There is no better example of a drag performer breaking through the mainstream into major Hollywood success, than Drag Race alumni, D.J. Pierce, professionally known by his drag persona –Shangela. Having first appeared on the show during season 2, Shangela’s somewhat lackluster performances could easily be classified as mediocre at best but always with a down-home likeability that made you want to root for her. Unfortunately, she got eliminated on the very first episode of the season, but her journey was only beginning.
Out of the blue, Shangela was given a chance to return to Drag Race in Season 3, as a wildcard contestant. This time though, she was determined to step up her game. With quick wit, stronger makeup and costume skills, and a “ya’ll come back now ya hear” demeanor, Shangela quickly became a new fan favorite, landing in 6th place out of 12. She was then asked to return once more for Drag Race All-Stars’ where she came in 3rd place. By that time she had also amassed a large online following in the United States and abroad.
Though many contestants have gone on to do other projects, Shangela’s star turn took her into the stratosphere, stemming from a chance audition for a small drag performance role in the film, “A Star Is Born.” Director Bradley Cooper was casting a part for a Marilyn Monroe drag impersonator, and Lady Gaga had requested explicitly that Shangela audition. Gaga had met Shangela years prior during the filming of her video for the song, “Applause.”
For most people, Shangela is not the first who comes to mind when considering a Marilyn Monore drag performer, and even Pierce himself agrees, telling The dailybeast.com, “I was like, well, you know, sister, I don’t care how much time I spend out of the sun I’m never going to look like Marilyn Monroe,” he says. “I would love to be part of the film. I would love to audition. But I don’t think that role is for me.”
He skipped the audition completely, which resulted in Lady Gaga’s team sending a second audition request. Ultimately, Pierce reconsidered.
Pierce pulled Shangela together in her best “Seven Year Itch” costuming, complete with a blond wig, powdered complexion, and a faux, black beauty mark. He did not get the role, but he impressed Bradley Cooper so much that a more substantial part was written specifically for Shangela, to portray the drag “mother” of Gaga’s character in the Oscar-nominated film.
Whereas a Hollywood blockbuster role might seem to be the pinnacle of success, Shangela has now gone even one step further into the mainstream, as the first drag queen to star in a commercial for McDonald’s.
You know America’s premier fast-food franchise has come a long way when it features a drag queen, promoting the first meal of the day, but that’s exactly what Shangela is doing in this new McDonald’s commercial and I am here for all of it!
The promo, which Shangela recently shared on Instagram, is part of a campaign partnership between McDonald’s and the Emmy-winning RuPaul’s Drag Race brand. This is a substantial triumph for the LGBTQ community as our increased visibility helps to advance the societal acceptance of everyone from different and individual lifestyles. At the end of the day, we all just want a seat at the table.
So pull up a chair as McDonald’s delivers some spicy Shangela, with an extra large “Hale-loooo!” on the side. Over 1.2 million IG followers served hunty!